What Does It Mean To Be Happy?

Morning Meditation #1

What Does It Mean To Be Happy is the first chapter in A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World’s Happiest Man. <-Previous: Getting To A Million Different Things, Preface & Forward ->Next: Running Conscious Awareness and Intersections In Ultimate Reality

What does it mean to be happy?

Everyone thinks they know, but it’s tricky terrain.

Words make navigation through imprecise thickets confusing.

We think we know what we mean when we say certain words, but do we? When we say we ‘love’ organic peanut butter spread thickly over whole wheat bread and that we also ‘love’ God, are the verbs really equal? Are the values the same?

Happiness is like that too. We can be happy to have survived the terror of a massive earthquake, and we can just as easily be happy lounging on a fair weather beach in Central America, not a care in the world.

There Is No Way to Happiness
There Is No Way to Happiness

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As long as we’ve touched the subject, let’s think about the most indescribable of all mysteries. What exactly do we mean when we say, “God?” Are we all indicating the same thing? Generally, maybe. Specifically, never.

How about oneness, that favorite buzzword lately among so many who claim to have a corner on spirituality? Oneness – is the universe really only one big container of soup? Are our differences illusory?

What about beauty?

Give “reality” a spin on your definition machine, too. The list goes on, and these are just a few of the most obvious trouble spots. Words, even at their best, can never be what they’re describing. Words are labels we post for reference, icons or rough approximations of the characteristics of something. They are symbols enabling us to talk about reality, nothing more, and they’re inadequate.

Words: Obstacles To Happiness

Animals, Temple Grandin explains in Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism, think not in words, but in images, a seeming advantage for them, closer to reality.

Self Knowledge Brings Happiness
Self Knowledge Brings Happiness
Yuan Lee
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The development of human speech and logical thought brought many pluses, but it cost us disconnection from the natural world. Speech is a product of objective thought, even when the object is us, and objective thought demands separation. Burdened with words, things are reduced and become less accessible.

Poets try to infer a deeper connectedness by invoking images or impressions that manipulate subconscious ideas and meanings. Among contemporary poets, John Ashbery’s illusions have most often released and broadened my own imagination. Even while getting only glimpses of the clarity he intends, I experience reading his poems like taking a spiritual and sensory workout.

First, aerobic agility is in focus, and then, weights must be lifted. It’s no coincidence that Ashbery has a parallel career writing prose about the visual arts. He uses words to expose his insight that real wisdom is somewhere well behind them.

One of my all-time favorites, a poem that first grabbed me when I was a teenager and comes back to me frequently, is Edgar Allen Poe’s A Dream Within a Dream. His verses are ultimately cynical, describing the distressingly illusive nature of reality.

Is Poe’s a dream about a dream, illusion collapsing into illusion into infinity? Good question, but can it help us answer the larger one: what is happiness?

Happy, it seems, may be unique to each of us, something we can know only about ourselves.

Happiness, as well as I can describe it, is the smooth integration of the layers making up the physical and nonphysical stuff we call us, balanced, and not one thing overpowering another. Simple, huh? It’s easier than it sounds. Honest.

So, what is happiness, then? Read on.

This article continues the serialization of A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World’s Happiest Man. <-Previous: Getting To A Million Different Things, Preface and Forward -Next: Running, Conscious Awareness and Intersections In Ultimate Reality

David Stone, Writer

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